COACH BOEHEIM: I thought that Houston was tremendous defensively. I thought we did a great job fighting back, getting back just before the half. And we gave them two buckets before the half. And it was two breakdowns. But their defense was just too much for us.
We missed some opportunities. But I just give 90 percent of the credit to their defense. They're really a good defensive team.
We did a good job on the boards. We hung in there for us. We did a pretty good job defensively for most of the game. The end we broke down a little bit. But we did a pretty good job defensively.
But we scored 20 points in the half. We're not going to win. Again, that was a tribute to their defense. Their defense was really terrific. It's the best defense that we've seen this year. And they deserved to win.
Q. In terms of Houston's defense, can you compare them to anybody in the ACC? And offensively was there anything you were hoping to do that you just couldn't get done against that defense today?
COACH BOEHEIM: Well, we wanted to get Marek and Quincy, when they pushed up on Buddy and Joe, they had great opportunities. I mean, really good opportunities.
And Marek just had a tough game. He missed a couple layups that he normally makes. Quincy had a couple of really good opportunities around the basket that he normally will finish. We knew that they were going to push up on Buddy and Joe. And they're tremendous defensive guards there. But I thought Marek and Quincy would maybe be able to get something inside.
I thought Alan could play against this team, but he gave up the two 3s to Sasser right in front of him. And the last 6-7 games he just has not been able to defend to stay on the court. I think it was a game he might have been able to get something off this team, off the bounce, but he just has struggled at the end of the year.
And this game was probably too physical for Robert. They were just too physical for him. But I thought Jesse did a great job. I thought Kadary had a good start. He made a couple of careless mistakes, but I thought he did some really positive things tonight.
But we thought we could get something going around the basket, given that they were going to play us so tough on the perimeter. And we couldn't capitalize in there at all.
Q. Wanted to ask about Jarreau specifically. What jumped out to you specifically about how he defended Buddy?
COACH BOEHEIM: He's a really good defender. He just stayed with him every place he went. He did a great job. Buddy has gotten better. And he did make some moves inside. He got through there. He settled a little bit too much for the 3 in the second half. He probably should have continued to drive a little bit more. But that's a learning experience.
Jarreau is a really good defensive player. And they helped. They were there to help him, but he's a really good defender.
I just thought that would open up some things for us to score inside, and we were not able to do that. I felt that our forwards would be able to score in this game. And they weren't able to.
Q. You said all season that when you make shots you win; when you don't make shots, you don't win. Was it just a matter of one of those nights where you didn't make shots?
COACH BOEHEIM: No, they were good defensively. They took it away from us. We had some opportunities we should have been able to finish something, but a lot of that was their defense. And you have to give them credit for that.
I told the players, you know, if you look at the season we should have lost to Bryant and we should have lost to Buffalo in the beginning of the year. Whether it was the COVID pause or whether we weren't good enough, whatever reason we should have lost both games.
And then as the season went, we kind of recovered a little bit. But we lost big at Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh home game was a horrendous loss.
Without going into the whole season, we were 16 down against NC State at home, and we won that game. And then we were 20 down to Notre Dame in the second half and we won that game.
And we had to win all those games. The Bryant, the Buffalo. I'm not even talking about Northeastern, which we were fairly lucky to win too. But winning the Notre Dame and NC State, coming from that far behind. And then we had to beat North Carolina, which we hadn't beaten in 10 -- I think 10 games, something like that. And we had to beat -- 10 regular season; we did beat them in the tournament, ACC Tournament -- but hadn't beaten them in 10 regular season games. Had to beat Clemson, which is a good team, a tournament team. And we did all that. And then we came in here and we had to beat a 6 seed, which won 14 straight games, San Diego State. That was a phenomenal game. Phenomenal performance. And then we had better balance. Buddy scored but we had better balance. And then to beat West Virginia we played really good defense and it was a really good win.
It's hard to beat seeds, 11, it's hard when you're an 11 to beat a 6 and then to beat a 3 -- I forget what West Virginia was; they were pretty good. And we just couldn't overcome Houston, because they're very good. They're a really good basketball team and really good defensively, really good.
Q. All season long you've been an advocate on this season needed to be played, even during a pandemic. How beneficial was this season to be played by your team and how difficult was this season to be played?
COACH BOEHEIM: It was difficult for everybody. But we've gotten through it. We played most of the games. The tournament's been great. Had a lot of good games in this tournament. Really good games. The players got a chance to play. My son's at Cornell and he's been miserable for six months, as have all the other athletes in the Ivy League because they didn't even get a chance to play.
And some day we're going to look back and say why didn't we play? Why would we ever even have thought about not playing? These kids, if they get sick, they're better, they're back in a few days or they don't get sick. And it would have been a monumental mistake to not play basketball. And I give the -- Dan Gavitt and his crew and his people, an unbelievable job they've done to make this possible, the work that's gone into this to make this tournament possible.
And it's the only thing that could have been done. The players want to play. Everybody says about the money. I don't think it has anything to do with the money. Everybody thinks that and they're going to say that. The players want to play. It's as simple as that. They wanted to play the season.
And I think -- I mean this is one of the best years that I have ever had coaching for these guys to get through this and to get to this stage, I think, is just unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable. I couldn't be more proud of a basketball team than I am of this team. Period.
Q. I realize the game has just ended but I'm curious if you could look ahead in particular with Jesse in the middle with your center situation, just going forward?
COACH BOEHEIM: First of all, I've seen 50 or 60 starters that have left programs in the last week to 10 days. I've seen five, six guys leaving programs. Being able to transfer and play right away means if you have any issue at all, any issue, you're going to leave. Those guys would never have left before. But now they're going to.
We'll have guys leave. And it's what's going to happen. That's what's going to happen. And in the next two to three weeks, as things happen, we're going to have to adjust to it and start recruiting in the transfer portal because we'll have guys in there.
And this last year happened, we lost three guys or four, three guards. And none of those three played anywhere where they went. But that's what's going to happen. There's going to be a lot of transfers. And we're not going to be immune to it. Anybody that's not playing a lot or unhappy, they think -- they could be perfectly good kids, perfectly happy. But they think they should play more or shoot more, whatever it may be, and players are going to leave. That's just the way it is and there's going to be adjustments that have to be made.
I'm really happy with Jesse's development and Joe and Buddy and Kadary and Quincy, the way they played. I think we have a great player coming in with great potential. But we're going to get somebody else and I think we're going to lose players. And that's reality. I mean, North Carolina never lost a player. I remember recruiting against North Carolina. They had 13 All-Americans there -- 13. And not one of them ever left. And only seven or eight of them played.
I think somebody told me seven guys left North Carolina this year. I'm, like, really? I mean, that's amazing. I saw guys leave this year that were starters on teams because the coach tried to coach them. You know? I mean, they didn't punish them. Just tried to coach them a little bit. That's what's going to happen. It's going to happen. It's going to happen to every, just about everybody, for sure.
Q. Has Jesse mentioned anything about potentially transferring? You chose to take him out with about two minutes left in the half. He ended up being plus-10. They went on a 10-0 run after he came out of the game. Was him not being in there did hurt?
COACH BOEHEIM: That's why they went on that run, I'm sure. He was tired, OK? Really. That's just unbelievable. That's normal for Syracuse people.
This was a great year. I'm so proud of this team and everything that they've accomplished. The guy that asked that question two months ago said we wouldn't be in the NIT. So I guess that's so much for your credibility. This was a great year. These guys deserve all the credit in the world for what they've done. And we happened to lose to a really great basketball team tonight.